Full Plate? Start Scraping!

May 20, 2016   Haven Lindsey


Americans have the reputation for being busy, for working long hours, and not taking vacations.

In fact, in 2015, four out of ten American workers did not use all of their paid vacation days. Americans work longer hours than anyone else in the industrialized world and our busy lifestyles have begun to influence our children and how we are raising them. A common response to the question, “How are you?”, is to hear how busy someone is or how full their calendar is. Increasingly, our children are responding the same way. American children are frequently described as being over-scheduled with days jammed packed with extra-curricular activities.

American adults who are ‘work-alcoholics’ have long struggled with health problems, erratic sleep patterns, headaches, anxiety, and depression. As the work-alcoholic lifestyle becomes increasingly pervasive, children and teens in the U.S. have begun to report similar health concerns.


What does it all mean, being busy, over-scheduled and time-starved? How many times have you heard yourself saying, “My plate is really full right now” or “I’d love to but I’ve got a full plate”? It’s easy to get caught up in a busy schedule – we are vibrant, energetic, interested and want to get the most out of life. But in some cases, as we keep piling on more activities, our proverbial plate becomes so full that it’s as if we’re too busy to fully experience our life. Instead, we run from one commitment to the next, checking items off the list.

A number of years ago I was working with individuals experiencing mental illness and many life challenges in a peer support and recovery center. It was a raw and at times difficult environment, yet one that was also full of support and camaraderie. One afternoon a young man overwhelmed with his situation yelled in frustration to no one and everyone, “I’ve got too much on my plate!”. Almost immediately, a peer walked up to him and calmly said, “Honey, if you’ve got a full plate then it’s time to start scraping.” I thought her response was brilliant in its simplicity and her words have stuck with me since.

We all experience times when we’re overwhelmed, when we have taken on too much, when our plate is too full. And when that happens, we can start scraping. We don’t have to say yes to every person or to every request, we can say no.

Whether or not you are in recovery, have a full-time job, family obligations, or a need to fill every minute of down-time, we all experience the stress of having a plate that is a little too full from time to time. In a culture where products are often marketed as a short-cut to happiness and convenience, we discover that in reality, oftentimes less is more.

The next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a look at your proverbial plate – if it’s too full, start scraping.

5 Signs That It’s Time to Scrape your Plate

  • You have no time for spontaneity, your days are always scheduled to the max and there’s no downtime.
  • You’re beginning to run late, forgetting to respond to calls, emails or texts; it’s getting harder to keep up.
  • You aren’t productive – you are so busy trying to multi-task that nothing is really getting accomplished.
  • You feel frazzled and overwhelmed and your head spins with all the things you’ve still got to do.
  • You can’t say “no”, continuing to add more obligations and commitments.

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